Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

       A high-performance ultra-wide-angle lens with remarkable flatness of field.Canon’s EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens replaces an existing lens with similar specifications. Designed for professional photographers and usable on both ‘full frame’ DSLRs and models with smaller (‘APS-C sized’) image sensors, it has many of the same specifications as the lens it replaces. However, it’s somewhat cheaper.  . . [more]

      Full review



      Canon’s EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens replaces an existing lens with similar specifications. Designed for professional photographers and usable on both ‘full frame’ DSLRs and models with smaller (‘APS-C sized’) image sensors, it has many of the same specifications as the lens it replaces. However, it’s somewhat cheaper.
      The main differences lie in the optical construction, number of diaphragm blades and close focusing limit. It is also slightly larger and 85 grams heavier. As in all Canon L Series lenses, build quality of the Mark II lens is superb, with even more extensive weatherproof sealing and a built-in, petal-shaped lens hood. The lens cap has been re-designed to fit more securely.
      The optical design still consists of 14 lens elements but in the new lens they are arranged in 11 groups, instead of 10. Two Glass Mould aspherical elements are now included to correct distortion and improve optical quality, along with two Super UD (ultra-low dispersion) elements to minimise chromatic aberrations. Internal reflections are suppressed by Super Spectra coatings, minimising the effects of flare and ghosting.
      The six-bladed lens diaphragm closes to a circular aperture for smooth, even-looking bokeh (background blur), while the maximum aperture of f/2.8 enables fast, flash-free shooting in low light settings, plus good depth of field control. Ring-type ultrasonic motors (USM) and a dedicated CPU drive the rear focusing system, which is lightning-fast and very quiet.
      A wide, rubberised focusing ring is located towards the front end of the lens. Behind it is a distance scale with distance indicators in feet and metres plus a depth-of-field scale. A slider switch beside it allows users to switch between auto and manual focusing and Full Time Manual (FTM) focusing is supported. All focusing is internal.
      Unlike the longer lenses in this series, the 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens cannot accept screw-in filters that protect the front element. Instead, it has a rear gelatin filter holder. Filter sheets must be cut to size before they can be fitted and they can only be installed with the lens is off the camera. Polarisers cannot be used.
      Supplied with the lens is a soft carrying case and clip-on lens cap that covers the end of the lens hood, protecting the convex front element. Extension tubes and tele-extenders cannot be used with this lens.
      Photographers who are accustomed to using the predecessor to this lens will find the new model similar to use, despite its slightly larger size and heavier weight. One significant handling difference they will notice, however, is the improved lens cap, which, although made of plastic, now clips securely into place and is easy to remove. It’s too large to slip into a shirt pocket but can be accommodated in a trouser pocket without too tight a fit. The AF/MF switch is also smoother and better integrated into the lens barrel.
      When the lens is fitted on a camera, one feature that really impresses is the perceived flatness of its field of view. Rectilinear distortion is negligible for such a wide angle of view and everything appears sharp from edge to edge of the frame. The appearance of sharpness was borne out by Imatest testing, which showed centre and edge resolution to be very closely related.
      Using direct flash with this lens is difficult, largely because of its angle of view. However, bounce flash is possible on the rare occasions when you might need it.
      The focusing ring moves smoothly, with about a quarter of a turn from the closest focus at 20 cm to infinity. Focusing was generally fast and no hunting was detected in low-light conditions.

      Imatest testing showed the supplied lens to be an outstanding performer. Centre and edge resolution were very similar throughout the aperture range. Best performance was around f/3.5 to f/4.5 with a gradual tailing-off at smaller apertures. The table below shows the results of our tests on the EOS-1Ds Mark III.


      Lateral chromatic aberration was consistently in the ‘low’ category – although it was never low enough to be negligible. (This aberration is almost impossible to totally remove in ultra-wide lenses.) The graph below plots the Imatest results for our tests using the EOS-1Ds Mark III. Note: the aberrations were easily corrected when raw files were converted into TIFF format.


      We detected some coloured fringing in the corners of shots taken in bright, contrasty conditions. However, it was only visible in some shots and we feel it would have little effect upon the main applications for this lens. The illustration below shows a sample of this fringing.



      As mentioned, rectilinear distortion was extremely low, although the lens retained the wide-angle characteristics that make this type of lens so attractive to users. Vignetting (edge darkening) was negligible at all apertures. Flare was competently handled (although our tests were somewhat limited due to inclement weather). Bokeh was generally attractive and depth-of-field control was surprisingly good for such a wide angle lens.

      The high price tag is likely to deter amateur photographers from investing in this lens. However, it will be appreciated by many professionals, notably landscape and architectural photographers who are looking for wide field-of-view coverage with minimal distortion. It’s great for interior photography, where it allows you to shoot in very tight spaces. It can also produce some interesting results when used for portraits.



      Taken with the EOS-1Ds Mark III – f/7 at 1/197 second, ISO 100.


      EOS-1Ds Mark III


      EOS 40D.
      The above shots show the differences in angle of view with this lens between the ‘full frame’ and ‘APS-C’ sensor sizes.


      Taken with the EOS-1Ds Mark III – f/11.


      A close-up taken with the EOS-1Ds Mark III.





      Picture angle: 81 degrees vertical; 104 degrees horizontal; 114 degrees diagonal
      Maximum aperture: f/2.8
      Minimum aperture: f/22
      Lens construction: 14 elements in 11 groups
      Lens mount(s): Canon EF
      Diaphragm Blades: 6
      Minimum focus: 20 cm
      Filter: Gelatin filter holder at rear of lens
      Lens Hood: Built-in
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 80 x 94 mm
      Weight: 645 grams





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